Saturday, 11 August 2007

Hemmed In

Mr John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, has done well for himself in today's Telegraph. He's quoted in the article, Court secrecy rules hide child abuse errors, and has even managed to pen an opinion piece under the title, Bullying, secrecy and the legal baby-snatchers.

Not bad going for a relatively obscure MP more usually famed for serial bed-hopping and being the first MP to convert his car to run on vegetable oil - there's always one, isn't there? Unfortunately, the rest of the week hasn't been quite so successful for Mr Hemming.

On the 8th August, Guardian writer Johnathon Gornall wrote a thought provoking and well reasoned blog posting called Hemming's Way, in which he was critical of the MP's campaign against child protection agencies. Gornall suggested that John Hemming may be at least partially motivated by personal experiences, that he indulged in "strained logic" and "fanciful interpolation" of facts and sees his crusade as an opportunity to make tabloid headlines.

The post prompted a lengthy debate, in which Mr Hemming and several of his supporters from the Mothers Against Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy website - to which John Hemming is a regular contributor - sought to counter Mr Gornall's observations. Having read the debate - now, sadly, closed to further comment - in detail, it doesn't look like they did a very good job.

After unwisely referring to the abduction of Madeleine McCann and the actions of her parents in leaving her alone, Mr Hemming became trapped in a logical stranglehold from which he first attempted to extricate himself by casting aspersions upon his critic. Failing to do so, and digging himself into a deeper hole in the process, he was only able to disentangle himself by admitting that he felt "that an adult or responsible child should be in the same building" as opposed to leaving young children home alone.

Meanwhile, as though his blustering on this point wasn't enough to support Mr Gornall's hypothesis, Dr Rita Pal, the feisty editor of the NHS Exposed website and blog, set about challenging the embattled MP's public comments and assertions on paediatric medicine. Needless to say, the outcome was Hemming nil, Pal several dozen. As a result, the MP's populist stance against Professor David Southall - whom he has likened to Josef Mengele - began to look increasingly tenuous.

Fortunately for Mr Hemming, the Guardian automatically disables the option to post comments on blog entries after 72 hours, so he was spared the need to respond to calls for him to publicly justify the Mengele allegation. A shame really, as, by the end of the debate, I was dying to see how he would attempt to get himself out of that embarrassing predicament.

Even so, his behaviour under fire seemed to me to be close enough to Mr Gornall's descriptions to lend a ring of truth to the original blog posting, although, in fairness, it may be that he was more hindered than helped by his supporters from the Mothers Against Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy website.

As anyone who has had the misfortune to visit this site (I don't intend to dignify it with a link) will know, many of its regular contributors express views thereon that are bordering on the rabidly weird, most of which revolve around their ongoing persecution of Professor David Southall and anyone who might question their opinions of him. The Mothers Against Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy website and its members will definitely be cropping up in future posts - having had a quick shufti around, some of the material on there is just too bizarre to ignore!

But, for now, John Hemming is the star of the show. I cannot help thinking that it does not do for an MP to take part in, or even be seen to be a member of such a web site. It lends credence to the actions of a very small group of serial complainers, some of whom already have criminal convictions, and encourages them to continue their half-baked vendettas.

Still, this remains (just about) a free country, and there is no doubt that some members of the site attract a fair amount of publicity. If, as Mr Gornall suggests, John Hemming is always happy to make the headlines, I suppose he's entitled to bask in their reflected publicity in exchange for a little credibility - I doubt either commodity will last for long.

Billy Seggars.

No comments: